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I’m not afraid to admit I’m a gamer. As the editor-in-chief of the TuneUp Blog about Windows, I feel the need to push the performance of all of my games to the limit; I like to play the latest titles at full resolution and with all of the details enabled.
Over the past few months, I’ve collected various tips to boost gaming performance on low-end rigs, which are generally not geared for gaming, as well as more powerful PCs. One piece of advice that I know may seem obvious is, get the best Intel, AMD/ATI and NVIDIA drivers. Many don’t realize just how much performance you can squeeze out of your system by doing so.
Back in March, I played Tomb Raider on my Alienware X51 gaming rig (Core i7 3.4 GHz, 8 GB RAM), which I upgraded with an EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660. This bang-for-the-buck graphics card should have smoothed the gameplay and produced full detail levels and HD resolution; however, the game stuttered (20-30 FPS), and there were a ton of glitches, for example, with Lara Croft’s hair.
Apparently, the then-current NVIDIA drivers were not properly optimized for Tomb Raider, which was quite frustrating. It was only after I played through the game that NVIDIA released its 314.22 WHQL drivers. According to the company’s website, the GTX 680 showed a 60% performance improvement—I actually saw similar results.
With the new drivers, Tomb Raider ran at a much smoother 39 FPS. Obviously, you won’t see that kind of an increase of performance when playing all games, but having the latest drivers will certainly help better it.
For GeForce users:
Grab the latest drivers from http://www.geforce.com/. Get the beta drivers when possible. For example, the latest version, 320, will give you yet another performance boost. What might also prove to be helpful is GeForce Experience, which automatically keeps your drivers up-to-date. You can decide whether you’d like GeForce Experience to get the beta versions or the more stable, final releases.
For ATI/AMD users:
AMD offers drivers for its HD Radeon at http://support.amd.com, but it’s always wise to check out the company’s game blog or third-party fan site, OmegaDrivers, and look out for beta releases of the AMD Catalyst. The latest release boosts gaming performance quite a bit. According to the company, performance gains were seen with the entire AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series.
Source: AMD Gaming Blog
For Intel users:
A lot of low- to mid-range laptops, ultrabooks, tablets and older netbooks feature an integrated Intel HD graphics chip. They’re perfectly fine for all 2D and video needs, but are not as strong on the gaming front; however, the Haswell chipset generation might change that. I frequently travel with a 2011 MacBook Air and run Windows 8; the system meets all of my productivity needs, but is rather disappointing when I want to play more recent games. With the latest drivers though, I was able to run Borderlands 2 – granted, it was at a low resolution.
Intel users should try to find the latest graphics drivers on the company’s Download Center. Some of the more recent (and possibly faster!) drivers might be posted in the LaptopVideo2Go forum. These drivers can help you realize nice performance improvements. For example, once I updated the 2012 Intel HD 3000 drivers to the latest version from May 2013, I got a 5 FPS boost, which made a noticeable difference in Borderlands.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a 2009 netbook, an old desktop or the latest gaming rig—there are easy steps you can take to significantly boost your PC’s gaming performance. We’ve just shared how to go about getting the best drivers. Visit the TuneUp Blog about Windows over the next several weeks, as we’ll uncover more of the tweaks you should make to fully enjoy your gameplay.